The Duchess gets an Intervention …

[Present Day — Baltimore, UCAS — 2075]

I fraggin knew something was up once I walked through the door. It was in the middle of the day, the shop should have been open and busy. Star Flower never really closes during the day unless there was something wrong. Furthermore, she is just sitting there … waiting … for me? I subconsciously rub my wrist where the datajack was. I could feel her eyes burn as she glared at the implant. “Drek …” I said as she motioned for me to sit. I kept asking what the hell was going on, but she just kept sitting there insisting that I have a seat. I sat down and she proceeded to tell me how disappointed she was with me. How disappointed Raccoon is with me. “I will always support you, Jenessa, but you need to think about your life choices. I do this because I care about you.” She said as I sat down. She stood and lit some candles and incense. As the incense started to take hold of me, I could hear another voice. “Meet the Dweller

I was floating in nothingness. But then the giant face of Raccoon appeared. He wasn’t the same as I normally see the furry trash panda. His face was stern … unmoving … disappointed? He was saying that I needed to reconnect to my roots. “I don’t think it can be done … GIVE UP“. His words pounded in my head and still do. Was he abandoning me? “I don’t understand?” I kept saying.

The visage then turned to Wolf. “You choose to be in this life, but you want people like Walker, ‘Uncle E’, and everyone else around you to do the dirty work. You want all the glory and none of the dirt. You claim to want to learn the truth about your parents. Why they were killed. But you just want to take the easy road. Let that trust fund pay for everything. Let others kill for you. Anything so you don’t have to sacrifice. You shouldn’t be here.” “What??? I don’t understand? I have sacrificed plenty! I have killed people doing this!” I screamed.

After finishing that, the visage turned to the Yakuza person that I killed. I can never forget his face … ever. Only this time it was dead and withered. “You don’t even really want to be here. You’re only interested in the next way to destroy yourself.” He said, pointing to my wrist where the datajack was installed. “All because you had to bloody your hand … And to freak out over killing me. Foolish girl doesn’t belong in the shadows. If you knew how many people I’ve killed … tortured.” A smile starts to spread on his face. “My favorite job was that family in Mt Vernon. There’s an art to the order in which you kill a whole family…” He trails off before snapping, “You might have killed me, but I knew what I was and embraced it. I died doing my duty. You’re pretending to be something you’re not, and *it* will kill you. Go live the coward’s life you so desire.

Tears started to well up again. Raccoon and Wolf were … abandoning me and now the face of the dead Yakuza that I see every time I see a reflection is berating me for killing him. “I dont understand what you all are asking of me? What is it you want?” I screamed.

Then it switched to … mom? There she was, right in front of me. She looked sad … disappointed. The tears burst out “MOMMY???” I kept saying over and over again. “But now you’d rather play with chips. All because it got hard and you had to take some burden on yourself. Maybe you’re not strong enough … maybe you should turn back and give it all up … go back home to Rabbit, stick to going to the clubs, and let those with the will to run do it.” The disappointed, sad look on her face was too much. The tears just kept coming. “MOMMY!” I screamed as she started to fade away. “Don’t go … don’t abandon me too.” I screamed. Then she was gone. Star Flower, Raccoon, Wolf and … Mommy have all abandoned me. “Why did they leave me?” I softly asked myself, looking at the datajack.

Raccoon was there again. He asked me simply if I wanted to continue down this path. The tears stopped. The crying stopped. Matching the intensity in the look of Raccoon. “Yes” I stated.

Then help!” He said as I flew through Astral space. Everything was such a blur. There were seas of fire, a whirling vortex, crystalline structures, trees … wait, that is ONE tree … The sounds blended together. Buzzing, clacking, talking, screaming, whispers, squirming, all of them at once. It was almost sensory overload, then it all stopped. I woke up in a field beneath a tree. Overhead is a thick forest canopy that blocks out most of the sun. A cool breeze wafted over me as I see a furry creature running towards me. It took me a moment to realize it was Raccoon and he was frantic. Almost immediately, seeing him took me back to the stern look he gave me and how I should just give up. I shook the feeling loose as he runs up to me, holding a twisted bloated stick. I took a look at the stick and recognized the magic from my time with Havoc Squad. “A corruption has taken hold, help me to cleanse it.” I hear Raccoon tell me.

Without hesitation, I stood up and followed Raccoon deeper into the woods. “Damn your furry little ass can run.” I shouted out to him. We came upon a small clearing in the woods. Above was a horror that I have never imagined before. The creature seemed to be pulling an oil like substance from the ground, even though it was high in the sky. Then the stench hit me. The smell of decay and corruption permeated my senses. The area around the oil was blighted and corrupted.

There were corrupted water spirits that were being confronted by some beast spirits. They were battling while I protected and assisted Raccoon. I took a shot with my manabolt at one of the corrupted spirits, but figured my skills would be best used assisting Raccoon. I noticed the horror was also trying to turn the beast spirits. My mind thought of when the toxic spirit caused my raccoon beast spirit to turn on me. I couldn’t let that happen again. I attempted to disrupt these attempts when I could. However, I failed and it turned a fox spirit corrupt.

The other spirits were able to fend off the corrupted spirits, but the corrupted fox spirit sprang on me. I wasn’t expecting it since I was helping Raccoon with the clean up. Luckily it was enough for Raccoon to finally cleanse the area. The corrupted spirits dissipated. The horror took a lasting look at me and then disappeared back to where it came from. Raccoon was overexcited and ran around me in circles. I dropped to my knees and let the furball nuzzle me . I scratched behind his ear and under his chin. Our eyes met and he thanked me for helping him.

I found myself within the talismonger shop again. The incense and candles were still burning. As I found my bearings, Star Flower also came out of her meditative state. “Raccoon and I have a stronger bond than ever.” I stated. Star Flower simply smiled. I got up to leave and as I walked out, I realized how cold that sounded. Star Flower has also always been there and supported me. She even supported me with running the shadows even though nobody else really did. Frank would drek a brick if he knew the kinds of stuff I was doing. The trips to San Francisco, which I generally just played off as following a band or something. If he knew it was to run the shadows, he would be pissed!

The walk home, I felt a calmness that I have never felt before. The itching in my wrist where the datajack was installed was no longer there. However, one thing from the experience stuck with me. Raccoon telling me to give up. Wolf telling me to stop taking the easy road. To stop having one foot in the shadows and one foot out. The Yakuza telling me to embrace my job. My mom saying that I wasn’t strong enough. All of these kept flowing through my head. By the time I got home, I had just one thought on my mind. I needed to be stronger. I needed to embrace my path. I could no longer be Jenessa Greenley, the party going, trust fund brat. I looked in the mirror in the bathroom and seen my reflection. “I am Duchess …” I said. “I am DUCHESS …” I said louder. The faces of Raccoon, of Wolf, of my mom, of Walker, of Soren, of Kira, of Eternal, of Freecoil, of Betat, of Tatters, of the Yakuza man … of Acorn. A sharp pain hits me when I think of her. I couldn’t protect my love when she needed me. My eyes came to a sharp focus. Never again will I let that happen. “I AM DUCHESS!” I screamed. A smile came across my face. Gone was the girl … Here is the shadowrunner.

The Duchess Makes Breakfast Burritos …

[Present Day — Baltimore, UCAS — 2075]

So as it turns out, my breakfast burritos are starting to become legendary with both Havoc Squad in San Francisco and for my team in Baltimore. Both Soren and BetaTest really like them. They were one of the first things that I learned to cook. Frank found an old recipe card from my mom for it and gave it to me. I memorized it and havent really changed it much. The only changes I really made was for the soysage. I cant really stand it so I use real sausage and chorizo instead. A bit more expensive, but makes for a better burrito. The other change I made was using fire roasting the peppers. Getting that char on them helps bring out the yum on them. So here is the recipe for them.

6 eggs
3 to 5 fire-roasted jalepenos
2 fire-roasted green peppers
1 medium red onion, finely diced
1 large ripe red tomato, diced
3 to 4 small fresh mushrooms, sliced (I prefer white button or portobello)
1 lb pork breakfast sausage (fully cooked)
1 bag (1 lb 4 oz) refrigerated shredded hash brown potatoes
6 flour tortillas
2 cups shredded monterey jack / pepperjack cheese blend

1 medium avocado, sliced (optional)

First you want to fully cook the sausage and eggs. Now there are two ways to make these. I prefer to keep all the ingredients separate and then add individually to the burrito, but you can mix it all in the pan and just scoop the mixture into the tortilla and enjoy! Either way, you can top it with the fresh sliced avocado, but these go extremely well with some homemade guacamole as well!

The Duchess Gets Back to Work …

[Present Day — Baltimore, UCAS — 2075]

I got a message that Sabot had another job for us. I am not sure if I am ready to get back to work after the … well after the incident with the Yakuza, but I need to get back on the horse as the say. The job was to extract an Ares accountant. The negotiated pay was decent and we spent a few days researching the guy and casing his place. Him and his wife had an apartment near mine. We decided to first scout the apartment as a possible place of extraction, so we posed as perspective apartment hunters so that we could get a tour of the place. It was a pretty nice apartment overall. On the way out, security had some words with us since they picked up on some matrix security issues from BetaTest poking at the host. In the end though, they let us go without incident.

Security was pretty tight at the apartment so we tracked his routine. He was picked up by an Ares Arms shuttle outside the apartment and taken to work. This was repeated in the evening when he came home. There were multiple shuttle runs to the apartment building, but this guy took the same one each day. We decided we would grab him outside the apartment. The shuttle was an Ares Roadmaster, naturally, and it just so happens that Ironclad has a roadmaster. We made a deal with him to borrow the vehicle for the heist.

So the plan was starting to come together. We would snag the target outside the apartment using our roadmaster that would look like the shuttle. BetaTest is able to spoof the signal to make the target think that the shuttle arrived, which would draw him out of the apartment building and up to the vehicle. Once the door opened, however, he would notice that this was not the shuttle so we would need to grab him quickly.

The next part of the plan was to somehow delay the real shuttle long enough to grab the target, but not long enough to alert Ares and have another shuttle dispatched. I volunteered to use the Jeep for this. Sure we can just have BetaTest brick the shuttle to stop it, but that would raise red flags with Ares. I could also just cover the road with a sheet of ice an cause it to wreck, but again, that would raise suspicion. There was a one lane – one way stretch of road that the shuttle takes. This will be the spot that I use the Jeep to cause the delay.

Initially, I though about just throwing the Jeep in front of the shuttle. It would delay the shuttle for sure. Didnt really care if it hurt me at all, but decided on a safer route instead. I would pull the Jeep out of the parking spot and block the traffic a few cars in front of the shuttle. BetaTest would disable the ingition so that it cant start. Once the target was acquired, then he can re-enable the ignition and move the Jeep.

So now that we have a plan in place, I found a parking spot that would work perfectly. The dummy shuttle was parked nearby to assume the route with Soren and Freecoil. BetaTest was in his car providing overwatch.

It was still pretty early in the morning when we got to our places. As I sat there waiting for the shuttle, I pulled out one of the BTLs I had and twirled it around in my fingers. If memory serves right, this chip was supposed to be like a slow suffocation that makes you experience the brink of death. “We still have some time …” I said to myself. I was able to slot the the chip when BetaTest alerted us that the shuttle was within range. “Another time then” I said as I put the chip away. I broadcasted my true SIN instead of my fake one. The idea being that I didn’t want this incident to be tied to anything and only look like a stupid teenage driver that doesn’t know what the frag she was doing. If my fake SIN was checked and found out, it would alert them to something going on.

As the shuttle got into view, I made sure that it passed the last available turn off before jumping in front of traffic. A slight opening appeared and I took the sharp turn to pull out. It looked natural enough that onlookers may have thought that I was an inexperienced driver that took it too sharply and was now perpendicular to traffic. Man that lady in the blue comet is NOT acting very lady like. She kept swearing at me to frag off and flipping me the finger. I got out of the Jeep and popped the hood, which REALLY made her go off her rocker.

A few moments later, Ares security got off the shuttle and came over to see what the delay was. I told them it just died and wouldn’t start. “Somethings wrong with the flux capacitor or warp drive or something …” I said to them. The guy rolled his eyes at that. “Go ahead and try to start it, its not working for me” I offered. He muttered under his breath as the Jeep wouldn’t start. The roadmaster launched surveillance drones, but they kept a perimeter around the vehicle itself. It didn’t look like they were scouting out any farther. Just in case, I let the team know that the drones were loose.

We moved our roadmaster back along the route and headed towards the apartment building. BetaTest still had the guy’s commlink looped to make it look like our shuttle was the correct one. As it turns out, most people dont really pay all that much attention to small little subtle queues.

Back to the Jeep, the security guy called in to have a replacement shuttle get moving. We didn’t have much time now and our shuttle isn’t there yet. “We can try pushing it back in the spot over there?” I said, pointing to the empty parking spot I pulled out of. I made a gesture to push the Jeep. A couple of guys from the security team went to push the Jeep. I sent BetaTest a quick message to lock up the brakes. It was cute how these big strong men tried and tried to push the Jeep, but it wasn’t budging. I laughed on the inside.

When the shuttle arrived at the apartment building, the target came out just as he was supposed to. When he walked up to the shuttle’s rear entrance, he was too busy looking at his commlink to notice Freecoil standing there. Before he knew it, Freecoil grabbed him, hit him with a tranq patch and had him on the ground. The shuttle left without further incident and headed towards the parking garage where we were to meet to swap the vehicles.

After the mark was nabbed, I had BetaTest release the brakes on the Jeep. I started pushing the Jeep again and it started to move. The guards seen this and started pushing again. With little effort, the truck was pushed back into the parking space. I apologized to the security team for the delay and they went on their way again. After the shuttle rounded the turn, I hopped back into the Jeep and left the area.

Since the security team seen my Jeep, I didnt want it to be seen anywhere near the fake shuttle. The others met up with BetaTest and moved the target from Ironclad’s roadmaster to his car. The Johnson set the drop off for 13 hours from now, so we need to lay low for awhile. Probably not a good idea to bring him to my apartment, nor to BetaTest’s. I do keep a run down hole in the wall apartment in the Brooklyn neighborhood that we can use. I rarely ever come here, but it would work for now. Its also near the drop off point. I gave the team the location and decided to stop and get some shopping done. Likely didnt have anything to eat there really and breakfast burritos sound really good right now.

I met them at the apartment and cast an invisibility spell on our mostly unconscious cargo. Freecoil and BetaTest helped carry him over to the apartment. Unfortunately, there were a few Yaks there. “Drek …” I forgot that they laid claim to the area. I quietly tried to summon up a spirit, however, my concentration was out of wack. All of a sudden, I got the person approaching looked like the Yak that I killed. The spirit denied my request and I felt the reverberations course through my body and my nose started to bleed a bit. Furthermore, it appeared that they seen through the spell.

We really couldnt afford a fight right now. I was still exhausted from the invisibility spell and now the failed summoning. I turned on the charm and offered him 1000 nuyen to shut the frag up. He accepted with a smile and turned around. We went up to the apartment and got situated. I kept scanning outside to see if the Yak dreks were making any move, but they didnt. I moved to the kitchen and started making breakfast. BetaTest was talking with the guy we nabbed about what his job was. Had to put a little fear into him first to make sure he didnt cause a scene or anything. He seemed shock when I gave him a burrito to eat. Were shadowrunners, not barbarians … jeesh. Even found an old bottle of tequila that was here. I have no idea when or how, but we passed around the bottle and gave the accountant a couple of shots as well.

After eating, BetaTest and I decided to have a little fun with the target since we still had a drek-ton of time to kill. He starting asking him questions in a customer service style about how the breakfast was.

Question 1: On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the customer service you were provided?
Question 2: On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the burrito you just ate?

I threw in the third question.

Question 3: On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate the likelihood you would suggest these breakfast burritos to family and friends?

Apparently BetaTest was taking it a little too seriously and chastised me on changing the scale range from 1 to 10 to 1 to 5. It confuses people, I guess. We had a good laugh after that. Even the accountant seemed to relax a little.

When the time came to drop the mark off, we left and headed for the warehouse we were meeting the Johnson at. It was a really shady place and seemed … normal? I say that questionably since it didn’t seem right. Something was off, but I couldn’t sense what it was. Everything seemed fine in Astral and meatspace and BetaTest said the Matrix was clear … but something still felt off.

The Johnson arrived and I got out of the car to greet them and deliver the package. We got the credsticks for pay in exchange for the accountant. As we were leaving, I caught the Johnson saying that “he will do nicely.” It sent shivers down my spine at the sound of that. But whatever, a job is a job. We were hired to extract him for the client and that is just what we did.

I got dropped off back at the apartment to pick up my Jeep and I headed back home. As I left, the Yaks were still there. I nodded as I left and he did the same. I am still not sure if I like that or not. Might need to come back and have “a little chat” with the fragger, but not making that decision right now. When I got home, I plopped on the couch and curled up to sleep. “Drek, I need to go to the shop today …” I took a nap for a couple of hours and headed in. I haven’t really been in since I got the datajack. I don’t want to deal with Star Flower and her nagging, but I had an obligation to keep. I rubbed my wrist where the jack was as I walked in the door.

The shop was empty except for Star Flower. She was sitting at the table when I walked in. “Jenessa … we need to talk, child” she said in THAT voice. “Frag me …” I muttered as I closed the door and took the chair across from her.

The Duchess Meets a Raccoon …

[Baltimore, UCAS]

From what I can remember, Raccoon has always been with me. My earliest memory is shortly after my parents died. Frank, Star Flower and a few other adults were around talking about me and my parents like I wasn’t there. Like I didn’t matter. Like I was insignificant in this fragged up world. I was sitting in this room with all these adults when a furry little trash panda showed up. He skulked around the adults and came to play with me. He chased around the ball I had, curled around me, let me scratch behind his ears and under his chin. He likes that. I felt safe with him. I felt … like I mattered.

There wasn’t much that I remember with the discussions except that it was about my parents. It seemed whenever something important was mentioned, they switched to hushed tones. Again, they looked at me as if I was a by-product of some significant event … but was insignificant still. I looked around and tried to pay attention to what was going on, but Raccoon kept distracting me. Looking back, I can now tell that he was protecting me.

Years later, Star Flower took me under her wings and taught me the ways of being a magician. Frag, I must have been 10 or so then. Started out as basic stuff, but then we started exploring the Astral space around Baltimore. It was here that I started to feel the same fear as I did when I was in the living room as a kid. Fear of the unknown, I would say. While she was teaching me about auras and how to read them, a powerful fire spirit attacked us. I did my best to stay out of the way while Star Flower handled it, but there was little I could do. The spirit landed a direct blow on me. I could feel my body burn with the pain. I closed my eyes was back in the living room again, hearing the adults talk about adult stuff. The same burning pain coursed through my body then as it does now. When I opened my eyes up again, Raccoon stood between the fire spirit and my crumpled body. Star Flower stood next to him, a look of shock at the giant beast spirit that came to my aid. The fire spirit didnt stand a chance.

Afterwards, Star Flower and I had a long discussion about Raccoon. I explained that I have been seeing him ever since my parents died and that he has helped me through the difficult times. It was then that she started teaching me about mentor spirits and how they exist to assist us. She taught me how to accept Raccoon and to ask Raccoon to accept me. I remember thinking that the “quest”, as she called it, was pointless since I already accepted him and he apparently has accepted me.

Star Flower helped me to build a lodge to protect me during my quest. She kept reinterating why I need to make sure that I was protected while projecting or leaving my body. There were some apparently nasty beings out there that would inhabit the bodies of mages while they were unprotected. Once the lodge was completed, I projected into the Astral plane.

Almost immediately, Raccoon was there. We discussed various topics, mostly on how to treat spirits. We mutually understood that magicians, such as myself, needed to respect spirits, ask for thier assistance and thank them when finished. When I respect the spirits, they will be more willing to assist me. However, I didnt no believe in binding them to serve me. I know other mages do it and Raccoon was ok with it, but it seemed barbaric in its “Master – Slave” relationship.

We also discussed me and how I have developed over the years. He took me back to the living room when I was a child. Instantly, the fear and pain came back. I could see myself, as a child, play with Raccoon while everyone else discussed adult topics. Even then, none of the words made sense. When I asked why I was brought back to this place, Raccoon simply sshhhhhed me. “Really, you going to shhh me?” I said. Then the stern look came from the furry creature. Its hard to imagine a scolding look come from a raccoon, but it got the point across. There were … papers??? … being shuffled around. These seemed to be the details of my trust fund and how Frank will be the trustee involved with that. Then there was an old manilla folder and pictures of … the car accident? “Wait a minute …” I thought to myself. The realization of who one of the people in the room was just hit me. He was an investigator of some sort. A single word changed my life forever during that quest. “Murder

After that, Raccoon has been my mentor, friend and sounding board when needed. Shortly after this quest was when I got the note that started my career as a shadowrunner. Still to this day, all I know is that something happened to my parents and it was not an accident. With Raccoon’s help, I WILL find out the truth.